HIV/AIDS Advocates Protest South Africa’s HIV/AIDS Treatment Program, Call for Resignation of Health Minister
HIV/AIDS advocates from the South African HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Thursday protested South Africa's HIV/AIDS treatment program and called for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to resign, Reuters reports (Quinn, Reuters, 8/24). TAC held protests in a number of cities in South Africa, as well at South African embassies in the U.S. and Canada (Lesser, VOA News, 8/25). According to SAPA/Sunday Times, police did not "for the most part" interfere with the protests (SAPA/Sunday Times, 8/25). However, Reuters reports that pepper spray was used on protestors in Cape Town (Reuters, 8/24). According to TAC, Tshabalala-Msimang has not ensured the government is meeting its goals for providing HIV/AIDS treatment or for mother-to-child HIV prevention programs (Robertson,VOA News, 8/24). "Today we face a crisis of HIV infection, illness and death," TAC in a statement said, adding, "Above all, we face a crisis of governance" (BBC News, 8/24). The South African Department of Health has said that Tshabalala-Msimang will not resign and that HIV prevention will continue to be the focus of the country's fight against HIV/AIDS (Mail & Guardian, 8/24). TAC also called for greater government commitment in the fight against HIV/AIDS and improved treatment for HIV-positive people in the country. In addition, TAC called for a national meeting to create an approach to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the government, the country's HIV/AIDS program -- which includes HIV prevention, counseling and testing and HIV/AIDS treatment -- is inclusive, and all HIV-positive people who need treatment will receive it. Currently, 160,000 South Africans are receiving antiretroviral treatment, according to VOA News (VOA News, 8/24). The "[c]abinet decided that work should be done, locally and abroad, to enhance understanding of our comprehensive HIV and AIDS program, to address any doubts about government's commitment to the fight against HIV and AIDS," government communications head Themba Maseko said. He added, "Our responsibility is to find a better way of communicating the strategy, so we are not seen to be over-emphasizing one aspect" (BBC news, 8/24). According to Maseko, South Africa since 2001 has tripled its annual HIV/AIDS spending (VOA News, 8/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.